How is Culture used as a Tool for Dissuasion of Conflict and Consensus: A Case of Sarajevo (1992-1995)

Jelena Hadziosmanovic


Within cities, culture and creativity have often been used as successful tools for dissuasion of conflict and consensus. Using the case study of the cultural scene in the city of Sarajevo – chiefly focusing on the period of the 1992-95 siege of the city – this paper argues that culture is an arena for creativity and resistance, but generally not an effective tool to end the conflict. I suggest that the role of arts in peace building and reaching consensus within Bosnia and Herzegovina is rather modest and its primary role is simply the artists’ need to confront Beckettian “nothing to be done” while, in a truly Lafebvreian manner they, as citizens, are thus expressing their right to the city. To illustrate this, I will start with a short explanation of the history and the complexity of ethnic and cultural structure of Sarajevo. The main part of this paper will explore various examples of art forms produced in the besieged city – all examples of socially engaged art created in candlelit basements and cold, heavily damaged buildings, followed by its more peace-building role in the period after the end of the war. After providing several examples of art during the siege, I explain what might have been the reasons for such a rich cultural production during the war, using some of the theories about identity, loss of common memories and urbicide. Finally, I discuss the purpose of culture during the war and that only in a less complex conflict arts and culture could be used as tools for dissuasion of conflict and consensus. In general, the paper argues for the affirmative power of cultural production and consumption for a community, which cannot always change the reality of a situation, but provides mental relief and a symbolic performance of unity and togetherness.


Identity; Culture; Memory; History; Urbicide

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